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Money-Raising Begins To Move Suffragist Statue to Capitol Rotunda

February 16, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ It wasn’t long after a monument to American women’s right to vote was dedicated 75 years ago that it was removed to a downstairs hideaway from its place of honor in the Capitol Rotunda. Some are saying it’s time to put it back.

So on Thursday, standing before the statue of three heroines of the suffrage movement, proponents of the statue’s relocation opened a campaign to raise privately the $75,000 necessary to do it.

Congress won’t fund it, given the current emphasis on budget cutting. But both Republican and Democratic leaders will support legislation allowing the move if others come up with the money, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said.

Warner said raising the money privately is ``in concert with all the other efforts to save money of the taxpayers.″

``We women are undaunted by the inequity of this requirement″ to provide the $75,000, said Joan Meacham, co-chair of the Woman Suffrage Statue Campaign collecting the contributions. ``We’re used to it.″

What’s more, she said, the cause is worth it. Behind her and Warner at the news conference was the marble sculpture of Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

``We all know that unchallenged injustice is a cancer to our democracy that cannot be ignored,″ Meacham said. ``Returning the statue to the Rotunda is nothing short of an affirmation of our core values.″

The fund-raising effort began on what would have been Anthony’s 176th birthday. She was president of the National Woman Suffrage Association and authored the 19th Amendment, adopted in 1920, that extended to women the right to vote.

The statue has been stashed in the Capitol’s ``crypt″ since shortly after its 1921 dedication in the second-floor Rotunda. The domed Rotunda, the Capitol’s most honored site, lies between the Senate and House chambers and contains sculptures of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the Rev. Martin Luther King and others.

One floor below, the women’s statue sits amid displays on the construction of the Capitol. The displays and large columns block the view of the statue from much of the room.

Congress last year seemed likely to fund the statue’s move back to the Rotunda. The Senate voted without dissent in July to get it done before Aug. 26, 1995, the 75th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s ratification.

But the House didn’t start deliberations until Sept. 29, and then it was blocked by three freshmen Republican congresswomen _ Sue Myrick of North Carolina, Helen Chenoweth of Idaho and Linda Smith of Washington. They said government funds should not be used.

``We were certainly disappointed, but we also understood their philosophy,″ said Meacham, first vice president of the Arizona League of Women Voters.

The fund-raisers hope to get $1 from each member of organizations that have signed onto the campaign, among them the Federation of Republican Women, the Democratic National Committee and the League of Women Voters, as well as contributions from the general public. Meacham predicted the $75,000 would be collected within three months.

The sculpture, formally known as ``Portrait Monument,″ shows the three suffragists rising from an 8-ton block of Italian marble. The artist, Adelaide Johnson, left an uncarved piece of stone behind them ``to signify the future generations of women,″ Warner said.

He said the heavy marble platform under the statue would be removed so the Rotunda floor can support it.

The Woman Suffrage Statue Campaign is seeking tax-exempt status that would make contributions deductible, Meacham said.

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